The Trump administration tried to send 250,000 troops to secure the US border with Mexico, but the Pentagon shut it down, report says

US President Donald Trump participates in a ceremony commemorating the 200th mile of border wall at the international border with Mexico in San Luis, Arizona, June 23, 2020.
President Donald Trump seen at the Mexico border in San Luis, Arizona, on June 23, 2020. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
  • Trump aide Stephen Miller wanted US troops to guard the entire Mexico border, the NYT said.
  • The DHS and DOD discussed sending 250,000 troops to the border in spring 2020, the Times said.
  • However, the idea was axed after Defense secretary Mark Esper found out, it was reported.

The Trump administration discussed sending 250,000 US troops to secure the Mexico border until the Pentagon shut it down, according to The New York Times.

In the spring of 2020, Stephen Miller, then President Donald Trump’s senior advisor, contacted the Department of Homeland Security and asked how many US troops it would take to secure the 2,000-mile (3,219km) border, the Times said.

“What’s the number you would really need?” Miller asked DHS officials.

Officials at the DHS then informed their counterparts at the Pentagon’s Northern Command, the Times said, who then began discussing the issue internally.

At the time, the Trump administration was grappling with the early stages of the US coronavirus outbreak and trying to secure the US’ borders to prevent imported cases.

However, when Defense Secretary Mark Esper discovered that his staff was discussing the idea, he was enraged, the Times said, saying it would undermine US military capabilities outside the continent.

The US Army has around 481,000 active troops, many thousands of whom are deployed abroad.

While the Times said that Miller had long been frustrated with the DHS for only offering to send small numbers of troops to secure the border, it is not known whether the idea for 250,000 troops came from Miller, DHS officials, or the Pentagon.

Insider contacted the Pentagon for comment.

The Pentagon stopped considering the plan after Miller and Esper held a short and explosive conversation in the Oval Office.

When asked by the Times, Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of the DHS at the time, said that the idea never made it to his desk.

The plan was ultimately discussed in several White House meetings. The idea was “never presented formally” to Trump, the Times said, but the president was reportedly fixated on his plans regarding Mexico.

In November 2019, nine Americans were killed by a Mexican drug cartel, prompting Trump to repeatedly press his aides to send US forces across the border to hunt down the cartels.

Trump only abandoned the plan when it was pointed out that the raid would seem like the US was invading a close ally, the Times said.

Though the plan to send 250,000 troops to the Mexico border never materialized, the US secured the border another way.

In March 2020, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention invoked Title 42, a law giving them the power to halt immigration and send back would-be migrants due to the risks posed by a health crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

The law is controversial, and its use has continued well into President Joe Biden’s administration.